This is a love story.
On a farm in Canada, I had a lot of lost marbles.
And a clinging 3-year-old, very bad hair, 4 farmboys who only got out of ripped jeans on Sunday, and 1 dimpled tomboy who kept sweetly chopping her own bangs all by her herself.
I read Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer everyday. Me and a whole world of other women looking for bits of their lost selves. She made us laugh. It was like medicine to me.
Then she went and met a man on the internet. His name was Shaun and he had weird hair. The month was February. He asked her to fly across the world with him to Uganda.
It got crazy.
They beat off monkeys. The internet laughed so hard its side ached happy. (Boo Mama went on to write one of the funniest books ever and it just took the world by hilarity last week and we get to all say we knew her back when she wrote of monkey attacks and we couldn’t breathe.)
BooMama, she did that too: she sat on straw floor houses in Uganda. No bigger than her half bath. And she fell in love. With this little orphan girl with eyes that haunted big.
Shannon sat in HIV hospitals with the dying children and looked right through papery thin skin to the grey of death. She prayed like she never prayed. Sonic and Oklahoma and Alabama seemed like different planets.
With the red Uganda soil out her hotel window, Shannon wrote a post entitled “Hope.”
With Canadian farm fields out my window, I read every word. I had Hope – she had just turned nine and wore her ponytail up in a bow and she could catch pigs faster than any farm girl in the world.
“This little peanut of a girl had been following me all morning. As we listened to the songs, she fearlessly climbed up into my lap for a snuggle:
Her name is Peace.”
And on my lap in Canada was a little girl named Shalom – peace. Hope’s little sister.
Staring into the face of another little Peace.
It was those eyes. And that one white egg clasped in her ebony hand.
“She was carefully peeling a hard-boiled egg for her lunch,” Shannon’s words unfolded from the other side of the world, “but as soon as she peeled it, she offered it to me.”
Peace peeled it — and offered it to me. Something in me cracks open. The potential for new life — is in the giving your life away.
Peace gives – because that is what gives peace.
It’s the holding on to your life that has you tight-fisted, has you warring inside.
The only way to hold on to peace – is to let go.
Shalom had leaned forward to that screen — and touched little Peace’s face.
That offered egg in her hand. What in the world are we all holding on to? What are we clinging to, worrying about, believing really?
Worry is belief gone wrong.
Because you don’t believe that God will get it right.
But peace –
Peace is belief that exhales.
Because you believe that God’s provision is everywhere—like air.
Exhale. Let go. Peace is the belief that God’s provision is everywhere.
We could be someone else’s peace – someone else’s God-given provision.
And at 7:20 AM on Valentine’s Day, February 2008, in the deep of a Canadian winter, I leave this comment on Shannon’s blog:
We have a little girl named peace too… our Shalom…
Could our two Peace girls reach across the world and love?
We reach back… and offer to sponsor another child.
The perfect Valentine’s Day gift:
“We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” 1 Jn 3:16”
Peace exhales – and love lays down.
“She is perfect,” Hope pushes back her crooked bangs, touches the screen, Anna’s face. I don’t know much about Anna, except she is from Uganda, she is four, and she is perfect.
Five years ago, on that first Compassion blogger’s trip, that’s what Shannon writes as the last lines of that blog post entitled “Hope” —
“After such a bleak day yesterday, I will confess that I got out of bed this morning wondering if my heart could even take in anymore. But even in the rampant poverty today, I saw hope.”
Hope writes a letter to Anna in her 9-year-old scrawl.
Anna sends back a letter in her four-year-old scrawl.
Shalom draws pictures and licks envelopes closed. Hope opens a letter with a photo of Anna – wearing shoes she bought with birthday money we’d sent. And a goat – she bought a goat too. I laugh glory. I want to see that photo every day. I use a tab of grey duct tape and affix it to the fridge.
There is a peace that feeds your soul – the way you can give yourself away and be filled.
That photo stays on the fridge for years.
New photos come. Anna grows taller. We cup her photos like soul nourishment – like someone handed us an egg.
Hope blows out 14 birthday candles. She’s now almost 6 feet tall.
She runs in through this winter’s snow with the mail. In between the bills and the Canadian Tire Flyer, I find a Compassion envelope. Hope must have missed it? Shalom stands on a chair to look at Anna’s drawing of her church, her Sunday school. I read the letter out loud to kids scarfing down scrambled eggs. And then I don’t…
Then I throw arms up in the air and whoot only like a farmer’s wife can.
“Whaatt?! What does she say?” Hope pushes her chair back, reaches for the letter.
“Best Compassion Letter ever!” I’m waving it giddy.
“Whaaatt?” Hope’s laughing anxious —
“Look at that line — “Anna would like you to know that she has given her life to Christ.”
The angels would like you to know they combust into pure glory and stars split into fireworks and giving your life so one other gives their life to Christ is how you get joy beyond the walls of this world.
Compassion Canada would like to know if they can film Anna’s story, if Hope would get on a plane and fly to Uganda and meet the little girl who was birthed in her heart out of a blog post named Hope. If a girl named Peace in Uganda and a girl named Shalom in Canada, could be threads in a story that tie Hope and her pigs, to Anna and her goats, and them both to Christ for all eternity. If one family on this side of the ocean could be the gift back – only to find that being the gift back is how you unwrap joy.
Hope packs her bags. We fly to Africa. We sleep, waiting for the light and the meeting of Anna.
Because there’s a love that can grow in you, that can stir you in the night with a wondering of what this world might look like for our children, for all the children of the world. You can listen for their breathing in sleep, you can listen for the children, yours and the world’s, listen for their turning in the night and how, even in sleep, how their arms reach.
The children’s arms reach even in sleep.
How they breathe and exhale and you could be done with worry, belief gone wrong, because you don’t believe that God will get it right, and you could breathe, peace – the belief that exhales. Because you believe that God’s provision is everywhere—like air.
God’s provision is everywhere — it’s us.
And all the world could come into the peace of reaching out. We could come into the presence of the reaching Christ. We who live with hands closed have lost all gold; we who live with hands wide open have more than a thousand fold. This is not a trite saying. This is the only way to make your life into a true, real-life love story. Is there anything else worth living?
There is Hope under a window in Africa, reaching, and there is a little African girl named Anna, and love can meet today.
There it is all around us, and you can feel it, the way love can touch and really enfold.
The way you rest in the grace of a love story and live free.
Part 2 of A Global Love Story tomorrow, Lord willing… when Hope and Anna meet!
Will you take one moment today and look into one face here and pray for just one by name, right now — your real way of reaching out to a child and not turning away– pray for the beginning of a real-life love story:
Here if you are in Canada and here if you live in the US.